Inaugural Pollard awareness day proves disappointing to activists

Many schools failed to implement a new awareness day on the plight of Jonathan Pollard yesterday, according to a group dedicated to his release from a US prison for spying for Israel. "Many schools claimed they had not heard about the Education Ministry's instructions and responded negatively to students who turned to the principal's office regarding this manner," Youth for Pollard activist Adi Ginzburg told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The organization had decided to monitor school compliance with the ministry's initiative, and its representatives were gathering data on the manner in which it was implemented on the ground. "We are very disappointed, and hope that the Education Ministry will act to implement a discussion of Pollard in schools where it did not take place on Monday," Ginzburg said. Asaf Zagrizak, a 15-year-old student at the Reut school in Haifa and an activist in Youth for Pollard, also said he was surprised to be told by school representatives that they had not been informed of the Education Ministry's decision despite the ministry's widely publicized announcement on the subject. "Our school is known as a school that emphasizes social and community values, and so I am very surprised," said Zagrizak, who heads the student body's education committee at the school. He added that the failure to devote a class hour to a discussion of Pollard was "an embarrassment to the education system that bordered on impotence." Zagrizak said that even though he was not even born when Pollard was arrested in 1985 by the US for spying for Israel, he felt that "As a Zionist that loves the country, it's important for me that all Israeli citizens receive equal treatment, and I see the fact that an agent that was sent to the US has been abandoned by every Israeli government [as] an act of betrayal on the part of the state." Earlier this month, school principals and teachers were instructed by Education Minister Limor Livnat to dedicate time on Monday to raising awareness in Israeli adolescents of Pollard's story. Education Ministry director Ronit Tirosh proclaimed November 21, the date on which Pollard was arrested 20 years ago, as a day dedicated to exposing high school students to information about Pollard on his life, to examining the question of the State of Israel's responsibility towards Pollard, and also to examining the possible ways in which Israeli youths could participate in actualizing the motto "All of Israel are responsible for one another." Tirosh underscored the fact that the initiative was based on the government's recognition of its responsibility towards Pollard. Last year, thousands of high school students signed a petition demanding that the ministry help to raise the awareness of youth to Pollard's story and that Livnat instruct schools to dedicate an hour to the study of Pollard's case. Youth for Pollard claims that thousands of students wrote under their organization the following slogan on their math matriculation exams last year: "Sharon and Livnat, you have failed the test! It is unacceptable to abandon an agent!" On the first day of the new school year, in September 2005, youth activists involved in the struggle to free Pollard locked the gates of dozens of schools in Tel Aviv and its environs, reiterating their demands. Livnat's decision to support the study of Pollard's case was criticized by MK Yossi Sarid (Yahad), who said she implemented the new study program as part of an attempt to bolster her position with the Likud Central Committee. Activists in the Youth for Pollard movement, however, condoned Livnat's decision earlier this month, and said that their struggle over the past year was the reason behind the minister's decision.